Many certifiers are inadequate.

We have learned that certifying bodies are not effective. How do we know ? We did visit a few farms in the past and could easily detect fraud (See: Thailand, Spain, Portugal). Not only they cannot detect fraud where it is easy for others to see, but also they are inadequate at stopping fraudulent organisations, once fraud has been signalled to them. This is not all: Also those who control the certifiers, for instance IFOAM’s accreditation body IOAS or the well known Brittish Soil Association, are inadequate.

How come?

Here are some of the reasons for not detecting fraud :

  • Only very very few fields are controlled unannounced. This is the only effective control though.
  • ‘Neighbour-control’, the second best in effectiveness, does not work in many countries.
  • Controllers prefer ‘confidence’ to ‘wanting to know the truth’.
  • In many countries there is an enormous difference in power between big producers and their local controllers. As a result of that : The confidence that IOAS and S.A.have in local controllers is not always justifiable and should be labelled: very naive.
  • If a producer is caught, who then benefits? Not the producer, not the controller, not the big retailer. Think of that.

Here are some of the reasons for inadequate stopping of the fraudulent producers:

  • A fraud that is detected by others than the certifier does prove at the same time that the certifier may be inadequate. This may be an extra reason for the certifier to hope that ‘it is not true’ or that it is no longer possible to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • The producer may have the time to remove fraud or traces of it before inspection.
  • Damage controle is better for controllers, for producers and for retailers.
  • It is not always easy (legally) to prove fraud.
  • maybe only a warnig is given, or only one field is declared non-organic.
  • If banned from organics, the perpetrator can start again under a new name.

Is IOAS really inadequate ?

Yes, because they visit their clients only once in every two years, and then only look in the books. If a local certifier is corrupt, or just turns a blind eye during a field-inspection and does not see what you and I can see easily, IOAS will accredit these certifiers as long as the books look O.K. The local certifier will thus declare products to be organic which are in many cases only free of residu.

Is it a big problem?

The organic movement was started not so long ago by idealists who needed hardly any control, as their goals were not financial profit but ideal food production. Now with globalisation we see that big producers worldwide (in Brasil, China, India, Thailand, Eastern Europe) are asked by western retailers: “Can you deliver organic produce to us ?”

We cannot and may not expect the same integrity from these producers as we are used to experience from the farmers that started the organic movement out of idealistic reasons. We think it is a big problem: these new producers can produce enormous quantities at low prices, and controlling them is very necessary and very difficult.

Where to start ?

  • Replace ‘confidence’ by ‘control’.
  • Unannounced controls on the fields should become the rule. Each field should be visited once a year.
  • All organic producers should be listed on the internet with their adress or adresses where production takes place.

If a producer does not want to loose his privacy, he cannot become a certified organic farmer. Some other producer will gladly take his place. We prefer to take sides of the honest producer who is now outcompeted by the fraudulent producer. We prefer to take sides of the consumer that is now too easily cheated.

What can you expect from us ?

** We will go on putting pressure on IFOAM and others to do a proper control job.
** After all they are paid by us (organic farmers and consumers of the world) so we are entitled to controle them.
** We will without hesitation publish all frauds that we find ourselves.
** We will publish frauds that you write us about, if we are convinced that they are real.

What do we expect from you ?

We would be glad with your reactions, but even more happy with well documented stories about frauds.We hope that some of you will take the trouble to visit organic farms anywhere in the world and tell us what you have seen, and how welcome you were. We will send you a list that helps you to detect fraud, if you ask for it.